Recently I met Katie, owner of the PR consultancy About Communication, who shared some fantastic advice on her instagram IGTV that small product business need to be thinking about Christmas sales in July.

Katie has written this fantastic blog to share her expert advice to explain why product based businesses need to be planning for Christmas in July. Lots of tips and advice to consider how you can look to pitch your products for all Christmas PR opportunities and the Christmas gift guides that really drive sales.

WHY SMALL PRODUCT BUSINESSES SHOULD PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS NOW - Katie Sogorski

I’m a ‘we don’t talk about Christmas until it’s December’ in my personal life. But in my PR life, Christmas well and truly begins in July!

Big retailers and brands hold their Christmas press events in July. ‘Christmas in July’ is an opportunity for national media to see all of the products on offer and consider them for their Christmas gift guides. By now these businesses have also booked in key advertising space and agreed any seasonal packaging designs. 

As a small or medium sized business there is no reason you cannot behave in the same way as the big businesses. It’s important to think big. No matter your size. This doesn’t mean losing the personal touch or spending lots of money, it’s just about backing yourself, your business and showing everyone why they need to know about you. 

With a growing respect and excitement for artisan products, support for local high streets, and the rise in initiatives like Small Business Saturday, now is the perfect time to consider how you get seen across the UK by your target audience.

INVESTING IN PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY

When I start working with a client, one of the first things I ask for is all of their imagery.  This gives me an idea of the brand tone, the product offering and they can also inspire. I can count on one hand the amount of times a small business has invested in a good shoot for their products. Seems crazy when you think about it; you’ve spent hours, days, months, building or crafting a collection of beautiful products but then you don’t shine the best light on them and give them the reveal they deserve.

There is a misconception that photography costs lots of money.  When you begin to list how you can use the imagery within your business, it’s a smart use of your marketing budget.

With the right brief, and the right photographer for you and your brand,  you can walk away with a collection of images to support you for your Christmas marketing campaign, as well as a few extras that you can use throughout the year, known as ‘ever green’ content. 

Here are a few key reasons to start planning your Christmas campaign and photoshoot now:

GETTING A MENTION IN THE CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDES

Why so early? It’s a huge task for media; the magazine or supplement tends to be double the size of a normal issue, it require lots of page design and requests for info from each brand. Photography is so important for gift guides. It will make or break your inclusion. Make a journalists’ job easier by having excellent photography and you increase your chances of being included. If you have an amazing product but the photos are not good enough, they rarely wait around!

Where could your product appear?

The national magazines close their gift guide pages by September. One of the earliest to do is Good Housekeeping’s Christmas Gift Guide, as the magazine appears on shelves in October so you need to be talking to that media now! It’s a lovely read, if you’re not sure about Christmas this year, go and grab it as a handy reference for next year.

You have a bit more time with the online media titles. Worth noting that the person who creates the print version of a Christmas gift guide for a lifestyle magazine or national newspaper is not the person who creates the online version. You need to be chatting to them by September to identify who is pulling together the guide and what their themes and deadlines are.

An essential for being included in any national gift guides is that people are able to buy your products online. Journalists want to know that any product their readers see is available easily.

Don’t forget regional media. Some will have gifting pages on a smaller scale to the nationals and a website address won’t be so paramount if you have a shop they can direct people to.

Other opportunities for Christmas Gift Guide inclusion are blogs and content creators (Instagram or Tiktok) who are doing product round ups or shout outs. Start engaging with them now and get to know them, don’t wait and contact them out of the blue in November!

It’s worth noting that for any gift guide media outreach, accept you may not get your product back, journalists receive hundreds of products in one big room and it’s hard to locate once they enter…

Grab their attention with a media alert

Before you contact media or content creators you must have your media release ready to go. The basic components are: 

  • Bring to life who the product is for, set the scene, make media understand why their readers must know about your product 
  • Consider where it would sit in a gift guide – Is it luxury, under 25 pounds, something for dad, something for the person who has everything or for a gardening fan
  • Include a section on you, your business, its story. When you’re a small biz this is always important 
  • Have prices clearly outlined in its own section as well as any colour options and sizing and where your product can be bought
  • Insert your best images into the media release to grab attention and help media picture it on their product pages
  • End with your contact details – all of them! 

YOUR WEBSITE

Don’t wait until December –  take the lead from the John Lewis ad. When that appears (normally early November), it’s time to get those Christmas product pics live on the website as you know that shopping behaviour is beginning to change for the festive season. We’re googling and adding stuff to baskets as we ‘window shop’.  And if super organised, we’re buying and storing too! 

HOSTING CHRISTMAS EVENTS

These work great for a small business on a local level. Assuming we can all get together by the end of the year – 2020 has not been a normal year!

In November consider sneak peek events for your local media, most loyal customers and content creators. Let them walk away with mini samples, tell them about your products and their stories and bring to life why they are a great Christmas gift or service. Encourage them to share on their social media channels.

If you work in food and drink, hold an event as your premises, give people the chance to sample the Christmas menu or a new drinks selection. This can be a great way to spread the word when you open up your bookings for Christmas with lots of positive posts on social media too!

PLANNING FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM ADS

Christmas is a busy time for Facebook and Instagram advertising, especially with the increased popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whilst that means more companies are advertising, it also means more shoppers are online. It’s all for the taking, you just need the ad right strategy! We are a nation of scrollers – when I work with clients on ads, I find that if they have good images they’ve got a head start. 

Whilst my background is in PR, I chose to train in ads and offer as a service as I truly believe PR professionals are the best placed to create and run social media ads. We work in an industry that is about creating stories that resonate with an audience.  Finding those ‘ah-ha’ moments that get a consumer nodding in agreement and telling others about it. 

If you’re interested in advertising for Christmas, you need to consider how you split your budget to begin testing the water in September. This gives you three months to collect lots of data and build a warm audience ahead of hitting them with Christmas ads in November! If you begin running ads in December, you don’t have enough time to see what ads are working, where you audience is or give Facebook enough time to find those people most likely to buy from you.

CHRISTMAS EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGN

The saviour for many businesses over lockdown! A way to talk directly to a group of customers who have shown enough interest in your business that they welcome more updates. Get planning your email marketing campaign to tie in with your website update.  Tease them with a special offer or let them have a product update 24 hours before anyone else, create excitement and say thank you for the loyalty they have shown you over the last few months.   And, you know what I am going to say? Hit them between the eyes with that product imagery at the top of your emails, and encourage them to click through to your website! 

ABOUT Communications

By prepping now, you can take advantage of the most exciting and lucrative time of the year in the retail calendar. This isn’t about doing it all, it’s about finding one of two things that work for you and doing them well. What you learn from your first Christmas in July will set you up for the following,  influence future product choice, marketing priorities and help you fall in love with your brilliant business all over again. 

Katie runs ABOUT communications. A one stop comms shops offering PR, brand storytelling and Facebook ad strategy to small businesses across the UK. 

There is still time to apply for the Christmas In July Festival which will be held September 2020.

This is where all brands and retailers will come together to  launch their Christmas products collectively to maximise their most profitable time of year – saving budget and resource whilst increasing exposure to national press.

The event will focus on putting journalists first, minimising their time out of the office and maximising the brands and retailers they could visit under one roof, across all gift categories.

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